11 Must-Know Newborn Skin Facts

11 Must-Know Newborn Skin Facts

Franki Hobson

Lifestyle Writer


The old saying as ‘soft as a baby’s bottom’ is the one handful that makes every new mum’s heart melt. But caring for your newborn’s skin, from nappy changes and bath time to massage oils, cradle cap and barrier creams, can be a tricky area to navigate.

Enter Jo Bridgman, Midwife and member of the Johnson’s baby Professional Team, who has these easy to understand newborn skin tips and advice…

1. Newborn skin can be ten times more sensitive than adults

While that little bundle has been super speedy in developing from an embryo to a fully functioning human (ok, he may not quite be driving yet, but it won’t take long!), the skin still requires a lot of TLC and time to adapt to the new environment. “Unlike adult skin, newborn skin is thinner and may not fully mature for up to 12 months,” explains Jo Bridgman, Midwife for the Johnson’s baby Professional Team. “It absorbs and loses water faster, leaving it vulnerable to dryness and irritation. Infant skin can be up to ten times more sensitive than adult skin, making it prone to conditions like atopic dermatitis and eczema.”

Watch the video series: How to bathe baby, bedtime massage and more…

2. Water alone isn’t always enough to clean the nappy area.

It goes without saying that you should keep the skin clean from impurities, especially the nappy area, but what should you use? “Water alone is not always enough to clean away harmful irritants in urine and faucal matter, which can cause the delicate skin barrier to break down and lead to redness and rashes.” Always avoid products with harsh ingredients, and ask your local community nurse or pharmacist to recommend something suitable for your little ones needs.

3. Don’t use adult wash on baby skin…

Choose an ultra-mild bath baby wash that has been specifically developed for delicate newborn skin. “Look for pH balanced, alcohol-free, dye-free, allergy tested and 100% soap free wash,” suggests Jo. “If the pH level in baby skin gets too high, bacteria is able to grow and causes the skin to break down. Developed especially for newborn skin, Johnson’s Baby Top-To-Toe Bath is more hydrating than just using water alone.”

Try: Johnson’s baby Top-to-Toe Bath, $5.49 for 200ml, or $8.59 for 500ml. Johnson’ baby Top-to-Toe Bath is clinically proven to be suitable for newborn skin. It contains effective yet ultra-mild cleansers to wash away waste materials.  Johnson’s baby Top-to-Toe Bath helps to ensure that a baby’s first line of defence, (the stratum corneum) continues to function as it should – protecting the body from bacteria, irritants, allergens and environmental attacks, thanks to a unique combination of gentle ingredients ensure that baby skin and eye are cared for.


4. Protect the skin and prevent irritation

Just like us ‘big babies’, a wee one’s skin easily absorbs creams, and germs, that land on it. “This is one of the most important thing mums can do to help maintain hydration levels and prevent babies delicate skin from becoming irritated,” advises Jo. “Choose an infant specific product such as baby oil, which lies on top of the skin. This creates a seal and helps prevent the moisture loss, which is greater in newborns.

Try: Johnson’s Baby Oil, $5.49 for 200ml. An oldie but a goodie, Johnson’s Baby Oil’s moisturising properties leaves dry skin feeling smooth and baby soft. Formulated with pure mineral oil, it locks in up to 10 times more moisture on wet skin than an ordinary lotion can on dry skin and is clinically proven to be mild and help prevent dryness.


5. Don’t use any old moisturiser for newborn skin…

It was only a generation or two ago that parents were using olive oil from the pantry to prevent cradle cap and moisturise babies skin, but this is now a big no-no. “Be careful about using products from your pantry for moisturising, such as olive oil,” warns Jo. “Olive oil is high in oleic acid, which can damage the skin barrier. Pantry products have not passed the rigorous testing needed for use on baby skin and may contain other additives you are unaware of.”

6. Barrier creams can help…

The skin barrier is a baby’s first line of defense against allergens and irritants, which can lead to sensitivities later in life. “Using a protective product such as Desitin on the nappy area can help prevent rashes occurring and promote rapid healing should they occur,” suggests Jo. “During times such as teething, babies are particularly prone to rashes on the cheeks and the bottom.”


7. Cradle cap is completely normal 

Mums panic at the first sign of cradle cap: ‘What have I done to my newborn?’ The answer? Nothing. It’s completely normal. “This is a common skin care problem and a very normal part of your baby’s skin development,” explains Jo. “It’s caused by over active sebaceous glands. It is not caused by bad hygiene, or infection, and it is not contagious. Cradle cap doesn’t have a very pleasant appearance, but it typically won’t bother your baby and will eventually go away. Try applying a little mineral baby oil twice a day, let it sit for a few minutes, then brush off the flakes.”

8. Babies experience ‘spots’ too…

No one is going to accuse you of feeding bubba chocolate if spots appear, so relax… “Baby acne, or erythema toxaemia, is a common harmless skin rash that affects healthy newborn babies,” explains Jo. “This occurs because of the transfer of maternal hormones across the placenta at the end of pregnancy, which increases the oil gland production on your baby’s skin. The acne itself typically occurs around four weeks of life. Like cradle cap, baby acne also goes away in time.”

9. Eczema is becoming more and more common…

Eczema, which is also called atopic dermatitis, is occurring with increasing frequency in infants, according to Jo. “It shows up as patches of red skin,” she explains. “The skin is almost always itchy, dry, and rough. Eczema is caused when the body makes too few ceramides, which are the fatty cells that help provide the barrier protection to the skin. If you don’t have enough of them, the skin will lose water and become very dry.” So what are the causes? And what can you do to manage it? “Heredity is a big factor in whether an infant will have eczema – if mum or dad have eczema, a baby is a lot more likely to develop it, too,” explains Jo. “Defects in the skin barrier, allowing moisture out and germs in, could also be a factor. Overheating of the skin can also be a trigger in eczema.” To manage eczema, maintaining clean, well moisturised skin is important in preserving a healthy skin barrier for babies, suggests Jo. “After all, the skin is a baby’s first line of defence against infection, irritants and allergens.”

Try: Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Moisture Cream, $10.99, which is clinically proven to moisturise for 24 hours. The Baby Soothing Relief Moisture Cream contains colloidal oatmeal and rich emollients to relieve dry, red and itchy skin. The non-greasy formula absorbs quickly and is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. It’s suitable for use on dry skin caused by eczema and is gentle enough for everyday use on infants and babies with sensitive skin.


10. You can use bath wash to bathe a newborn…

It was only a generation ago that bubs were washed in nothing more than their birthday suit and plain water, but that’s not the current health recommendations. “Unfortunately, water alone isn’t always enough to remove all impurities on baby’s bottom, in line with recent findings published in the AWHONN guidelines,” advise Jo. So what can you use? Choose products that are mild and gentle and most importantly, specifically formulated for baby skin to help remove impurities. Jo says that when impurities are left on baby’s skin they can cause the delicate skin barrier to break down, leaving it prone to redness and discomfort. “Properly caring for baby’s skin helps to maintain a healthy skin barrier, and can help protect against the onset of skin conditions.”

11. Baby massage can help settle little ones…

Offer an unsettled baby a warm relaxation bath (38C), followed by a massage using fingertips lubricated with baby oil to avoid friction and distress. “Complete the routine with a moisturiser safe for newborns, to prevent skin compromise (and a source of ongoing distress with skin breakdown),” suggests Jo. The Johnson’s 3-step Baby Bedtime Routine, has tips for bath time, massage and quiet-time activities to lull your bub into sleep.

Try: Johnson’s Baby Bedtime range includes, Johnson’s baby Bedtime Bath, $5.49 (200ml) and $8.99 (500ml), Johnson’s baby Bedtime Lotion, $5.49 (200ml), and Johnson’s baby Bedtime Oil, $4.18 (125ml)